Part 1. Setting Off. Like Ishmael, “I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world,” and so for some unfathomable reason I accepted the invitation of an old friend to sail on the return leg of this year’s Marion (Mass.)-Bermuda race. I had never been on a small boat miles from any land before, and I looked forward to the opportunity to get away, to learn whatever I might and to have, perhaps, a bit of an adventure.
It was hot and humid the morning of Sunday, June 28th when five of us set sail on Restive, a lovely 49’ wooden sloop, a rarity in an age of fiberglass. With a forecast of clear skies and a favorable southwest wind, we were bound for Newport, R.I. 635 nautical miles away. (A nautical mile, I learned, is not a precise distance as humans measure, but a fraction of Earth’s circumference, which is divided into 360 degrees. Each degree is further divided into 60 minutes, and a nautical mile is equal to one minute of the Earth’s arc – approximately 1.1508 miles.)
We had just pulled away from the dock when I inexplicably tripped over the cockpit rail and found myself fully airborne and heading straight for the back of our unsuspecting captain, who was intently maneuvering us into Hamilton Harbor. It was a clean hit, and the full force of my body drove the startled skipper into the wheel and firmly wedged his Adam’s apple against one of its spokes, rendering him momentarily unable either to steer or to breathe.
We were off.